FOMO and FONK

I’ve seen so much attention in social media and blogs focused on the importance of ignoring FOMO- the “fear of missing out” on friends, events, or life in general. I get it. I’ve experienced it a lot. I’ve learned to cope with FOMO by focusing on my own circles, endeavors, and life with a clearer and tighter scope.

For me, however, it’s been a little different lately. While this summer has been one that forced me to miss out on some social life, I don’t necessarily feel impacted by FOMO. I’ve worked hard this summer in learning new skills related to software engineering, and trying to market those skills in the form of job applications and interviews for engineering positions. There has been a lot of studying, searching for positions, and writing cover letters and revising resumes. There’s also been a lot of well-deserved breaks and get-aways in order to recharge and hone a focus back on my target. For the most part, I’m proud of the progress I made.

Most of all though, there’s been a great deal of waiting. I’ve found it quite difficult to surrender to the feeling of being at the mercy of a hiring team or interview committee while I wait for their decisions. Sometimes, it’s almost a relief to hear a decision regardless of whether it’s a positive or negative one. How strange is that, to celebrate a rejection? I tell my partner that sometimes it’s not so much the fear of not landing the right position (or any one at all), as it is the fear of not knowing how it will work out. I guess instead of FOMO, it’s a FONK: a “fear of not knowing”.

FONK can suck. It can take away from precious moments in my life that should be more appreciated. Time with family, friends, or good-old-self-reflection can be diminished by FONK if I let it. It can eat away at my brain sometimes. I’ve learned to deal with FONK better than I did at the onset of this summer. It’s something that I’ve faced ever since leaving college. I guess you could call it a watered-down form of anxiety. I’ve never had a panic attack, but I do feel the gears of my mind constantly turning and wondering what will come in the days, weeks, and months ahead.

Dealing with FONK is simpler than I make it out to be: the best antidote to FONK is simply being present and focused on what’s in front of us. And maybe it’s the same for FOMO (although I think quitting social media is helpful too). I forget to worry about the future, about decisions that are out of my control, when I bring things that I have control over to the forefront of my mind. There’s simply not enough capacity in our minds to distribute out when we fully commit ourselves to tasks in front of us. Leo Babauta has a great post on how to address a feeling of a lack of control, and suggests how to be present and why it’s a good practice. We can stress out over something, or appreciate the tasks in front of us and close out the unnecessary and distracting.

So as the summer winds down, I will strive to do just that. I will embrace what’s right in front of me, and commit to it with whole mind and heart. I will meditate, and see tasks through to completion. I’ll take breaks, sure, but be sure to find the “little miracles” and “mindfulness bells” that Leo writes about. It’ll be a good thing to carry into the fall and beyond.

Tom

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